The Darwinian Multilevel Selection of Constitutionalism as a Societal Structure

Author:  de Almeida, Fábio Portela Lopes
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 20, Number 1 / March 2021


The idea that law evolves is deeply established in legal thought. This article aims to explore the implications of some recent developments in evolutionary biology to the understanding of legal change and, specially, the evolution of constitutionalism. The first section of the article discusses the evolution of human cooperation from a biological perspective, stressing the important role of gene-culture coevolutionary processes and multilevel selection in the evolution of human ‘normative’ mind. The second section explores some implications of multilevel selection in producing entities that qualify as Darwinian individuals – i.e., entities which evolve through evolutionary processes such as, but not limited to, natural selection. The third part of the article applies this multilevel evolutionary framework to discuss the evolution of constitutionalism as a structure capable of stabilizing modern societies in the context of moral pluralism and functional differentiation. The paper argues that constitutions were the result of multilevel selection processes which selected constitutional societies as a societal structure that fosters cooperation in distinct levels of social reality, by coupling itself with the normative structure of the human mind, protecting social organizations and stabilizing functional differentiation.

Keywords: Darwinism, social evolution, constitutionalism, multilevel selection, gene-culture coevolution, functionalism. 

Fábio Portela Lopes de Almeida, brazilian Superior Labor Court more